THE MAN WHO BROKE THE BANK AT MONTE CARLO
About the book
Essential reading for lovers of Victorian true-crime stories. The book takes readers on a roller-coaster ride through Britain, France and Monaco in the company of one of the greatest swindlers of the era as he pulls off one breath-taking coup after another. His amazing win at Monte Carlo is just one of many highlights in this true story, which reaches a climax when Wells is pursued across Europe in one of the biggest man-hunts of all time.
FACTFILE: Charles Deville Wells aka ‘Monte Carlo Wells’ aka ‘The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo’
Blog: The Man Who Broke The Bank
- The elusive Lizzie Ritchie September 4, 2018
In a recent blog post here I discussed some of the accomplices who helped Charles Wells in his bank-breaking and other activities. One of these was named by him as Lizzie Ritchie. When he was held in jail for fraud her name appears on a grovelling letter to Queen Victoria, begging for his release. She is listed as his co-applicant on an 1887 patent for a musical skipping rope. He also named her as his backer of his gambling at Monte Carlo (though he changed his story on this point several times).
Although I was rather doubtful whether she really existed, I noted that in New York State, USA, a Lizzie Ritchie had applied a few years later for a patent on a new type of wasboard she had invented. On trying to follow up this lead previously, I could not be sure whether this was the same Lizzie Ritchie, and could not locate her in census records.
Recently I looked once again at the sparse evidence that I had, and noticed the name of Jacob Ritchie, who had signed as a witness to the US patent application. I guessed that Jacob must be a relative – a husband, perhaps, or a brother. This narrowed things down considerably, and I was finally able to locate the couple in the United States 1900 census. (I had not traced them before because their surname was spelt “Richie” on the census return).
So was this the Lizzie Ritchie who allegedly helped Charles Wells? It now seems unlikely. The woman living in the USA in 1900 was born in Ireland in 1868 and had emigrated to America in 1886. She had married her spouse in 1889. On this evidence it seems most unlikely that she would have returned to Europe on several occasions over the years in order to assist Charles Wells. Lizzie, it seems, was a laundress, and her husband, Jacob, was a “general mechanic”. This sounds like an ideal combination for inventing a new-fangled washboard; but there is no evidence that either of them ever registered any other US patents.
Based on this new evidence, the Lizzie Ritchie mentioned by Charles Wells was probably a product of his imagination; the woman in the United States was almost certainly not connected with him.
- “Meet me at your bank – and bring your cheque-book” June 11, 2017
On a trip to London last week I made a detour via Trafalgar Square to take these photos of Drummonds Bank. Why?
Because the bank was already in existence on this site when Charles Deville Wells was active in London during the 1890s. Wells, known as a “gambler and fraudster extraordinaire”, persuaded one of his victims – the Honourable William Trench – to back him in a phony patent scheme. After handing over the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of pounds, Trench started to have doubts about the project, and when Wells asked for a further advance of money the young aristocrat hesitated.
Finally they agreed to meet at Drummonds Bank, where many wealthy people, including members of the royal family had accounts. This was also where Trench banked.
Trench was persuaded to hand over a further large sum of money, but demanded that Wells provide security. Wells offered two of his steam yachts and a smaller vessel as collateral, claiming that they were worth a substantial sum.
Predictably, Trench later discovered that the two yachts were virtually worthless, while the smaller craft had disappeared. In company with Wells’ many other victims, Trench became resigned to the fact that he would never regain any of the money he had put into the scheme. Twenty years later, however, in an extraordinary twist of fate, the situation changed dramatically …
- A Family Connection May 30, 2017
To quote the listing,
This brand new and exclusive three-part series delves into the relationships of six prominent women from world history – sisters by birth, all enjoying very different relationships with each other. The series explores the fascinating but sometimes fractious lives of aviation hero Amelia Earhart, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and the infamous Mitford sisters.
I’m especially keen to watch the third instalment when I’ll be able to learn more about Lee Radziwill, sister of the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. She was married in 1959 to Stanislaw Radziwill (1914 – 1976).
It seemed evident that Stanislaw and Constantin were from the same family, but what exactly was the connection? I set myself the task of finding the link. Using a number of sources online, including Wikipedia, geni.com, and thepeerage.com, I finally had to reach back as far as the 16th century to discover that both men were indeed descended from a common ancestor – Aleksander Ludwik Radziwill (1594 – 1654).
- The Man who Broke the Bank – new audio edition May 12, 2017
A new audio edition of The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo has been released by Oakhill Publishing Ltd. This is a complete and unabridged version of the book, with a playing time of around 9 hours 40 minutes. The reader is award-winning actor Jonathan Keeble, who has recorded over 400 audio books and is the voice of the disreputable Owen in long-running radio drama, The Archers.
The audio book is available as a download; as 2 MP3 CDs; or as 8 audio CDs. For further info, please click here: http://www.oakhillpublishing.com/bookinfo.asp?id=1816
- Fake News or Fact? March 1, 2017
On 18 August 1913, players at the casino in Monte Carlo were astonished when the ball landed on black no fewer than 26 times in succession. Believing that this run could not last, many punters had convinced themselves that red must come up next. They lost their money. Others reasoned that as black had been lucky so many times it would continue that way. They, too, lost when the series finally ended.
The story appears on numerous websites, and for many years it has been included in books on gambling and the laws of chance. But is it true?
I was determined to find out more, and to discover who had been the winners and losers. So I searched a number of sources including the Times Digital Archive, The British Newspaper Archive and Google Books. Surprisingly, I was unable to find any contemporary account of this event from August 1913 – or indeed any mention of it whatsoever until many years after. Having trawled through numerous articles and books I located what I believe to be the first published account of it – in a book published as late as 1959. This work is entitled ‘How to Take a Chance – a light hearted introduction to the laws of probability’ and was written by Darrell Huff. (Note the phrase ‘light hearted’). The author of this volume presumably invented the story just by way of example and now it appears in reputable publications as though it were an established fact.
But if it had really taken place, what would have happened if a gambler had bet on black starting with a stake of £1, and then left their winnings to accumulate on the same colour for 26 spins of the wheel? A quick calculation shows that in theory they would have finished up with over £50 million! This would have been something of an inconvenience to the casino, to put it mildly. To prevent any player from winning sums of this magnitude, the casino’s rules at that time limited the maximum stake to about £250, a measure which would have reduced the total win to about £9,000 – still a good return on an initial investment of £1 !
By the way – if you know of any source for this tale which pre-dates Darrell Huff’s 1959 book, I’d be delighted to hear all about it. firstname.lastname@example.org